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Donald Bannatyne

Former pilot and businessman

Born: February 1, 1926;
Died: January 19, 2014

Donald Sillars Bannatyne, who has died aged 87, was a former fighter pilot who for many years ran a haulage business and car dealership on the Isle of Arran.

He was raised at Balnacoole on the island, where his father Donald farmed a 40-acre small holding; his mother Catherine ran Montana Hotel in Blackwaterfoot. The family had lived in America for 12 years - Mr Bannatyne's siblings Sandy, Janet and Elise were born there - but they returned to Arran after Janet died at the age of four.

The young Donald did his share of agricultural chores on the farm, but was mostly interested in anything mechanical. He received his secondary education at Keil School but was not academically inclined and after Keil secured an apprenticeship with the car manufacturers Hillman.

During the Second World War, he volunteered for active service in the Fleet Air Arm and trained as a fighter pilot in Canada. On his return he was posted to the Machrahanish base on Kintyre which was lucky for him, but not for the inhabitants of Shiskine who were subjected to a reign of terror as he flew unauthorised low-level sorties in his Seafire fighter up and down the valley.

His most daring exploit was to fly low up the bakery brae in Blackwaterfoot, causing his uncle Sandy to fall off his bike. However, a high ranking RAF officer on holiday in Blackwaterfoot happened to witness some of these dare-devil antics and reported them to the commanding officer at Machrihanish. Mr Bannatyne was promptly reprimanded and grounded.

The war over, Mr Bannatyne returned to Arran, bought his first lorry and entered the haulage business as Bannatyne Motors in partnership with his cousin Donald. They acquired the Blackwaterfoot garage from the bus operator Ribbeck's and took over haulage contracts from Donald Robertson at Harbour View. In the 1950s they extended their business to haulage to and from the mainland, with a depot in Glasgow.

Besides managing the haulage side of the operation, over the years Mr Bannatyne also established a successful car dealership ("only one careful owner, who only used it to go to church on a Sunday," he would sometimes say, or on seeing a sale slipping away: "Aye it's a really good car I was thinking of keeping it for myself.")

In the early days of Bannatyne Motors, life flourished in other ways. At a dance in Kilmory Hall he met a trainee teacher Jean Gilbert, then working for the season at Lagg Hotel. Their summer romance blossomed and they were married in Glasgow in 1956, setting up home initially in Davaar and then at the well-visited Queenscliff.

Shortly after marriage, Mr Bannatyne was crippled with MS and hospitalised in Killearn Hospital. The outlook was bleak, but a new drug trial resulted in a recovery and lasting remission. Jean was not so fortunate, as her mobility began to suffer and after a period of misdiagnosis she finally underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour. Regrettably, at the age of only 51 she died in 1988. This was a particularly low point for Mr Bannatyne and his sons Donald and David.

He had to come to terms with his loss while also occupied with the merger of Bannatyne Motors and Arran Transport to form Arran Haulage Services. At least in that task son Donald, who was by then a capable partner in the business, was able to assist.

Mr Bannatyne retired at 65 as chairman of Arran Haulage but retained an interest in the business as a director.

Retirement meant a share in a small boat, a daily delivery job taking bloods from the local surgery to the ferry and more time for golf at Shiskine where he enjoyed his tenure as captain.

After earlier heartbreak, Mr Bannatyne found a second true love in Margo. They married in 1997 and together enjoyed visiting his younger son David in Australia as well as many holidays to Spain.

Serious illness, this time bowel cancer and complications during life-saving surgery, again laid Mr Bannatyne pretty low and his health and memory began to deteriorate. His driving was becoming more erratic and precarious, but taking his licence from him proved testing to say the least. When a doctor at one point broached the subject he was met with "listen sonny I was flying Spitfires before you were even thought of".

Life for Mr Bannatyne became more difficult and loving care from Margo enabled him to remain at home; she died in 2012. Mr Bannatyne was then admitted to Cooriedoon care home.

He is survived by his sons Donald and David.

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